(Caribbean News Service) — Antigua and Barbuda diplomat Sir Ronald Sanders on Wednesday accused British Broadcaster, the BBC, of contributing to the damage of the island’s nation’s tourism industry.
Sanders says the BBC continues to carry a story first posted on Public Health England (PHE) website, that wrongly claimed “an Antigua variant” of the coronavirus had been discovered in the UK.
“The BBC, by continuing to carry a false story on their news website about an Antiguan variant of COVID-19 is significantly harming our tourism industry,” Sanders told Caribbean News Service.
“Cancellations have been made by tourists and they are crediting it to the BBC’s story.”
Sanders, Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the United States and the Organization of American States, said all of this is being done despite the fact that Public Health England has redacted the story from their website.
“The British High Commission has apologised for the story, and the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, has written to the Prime Minister of Britain, Boris Johnson, a letter, which was made available to the BBC and they have chosen to ignore,” Sanders said.
“The BBC at this point is now contributing to the damage to our tourism industry.”
In his letter on Monday, the Antigua and Barbuda leader said his country was already “reeling from the almost complete shutdown of tourism caused by the pandemic” and asserted that the PHE posting has “eroded confidence in the gains Antigua and Barbuda made in its management of the virus”. “We now have to redouble our efforts at great expense”, he said.
The Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister drew Johnson’s attention to the fact that “no British visitor to Antigua had contracted COVID-19” in his country. He affirmed that his government has enforced strict protocols for managing the pandemic and has a comparatively low level of infections and a high level of recoveries.
Browne also stressed that the British High Commission to Antigua and Barbuda explicitly stated on March 13 that “there is no scientific evidence to determine where this variant first emerged” and that it regretted “any misunderstanding that may have arisen from the matter”.
However, Browne said that “the damage was done from the moment that PHE erroneously published the claim on its website. He has suggested to Prime Minister Johnson that “consideration should be given to recompensing Antigua and Barbuda with a donation of 100,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines”.
Antigua and Barbuda is one of over 150 nations that are struggling to secure vaccines at a time when the costs are high and more than 80 per cent of them have been bought by rich countries, including the UK.
Prime Minister Browne remarked to Johnson that “Antigua and Barbuda has always cherished its close relationship with Britain” and he “looked forward to a favourable response to his proposal.”
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